Building my horse barn
Updated: Jan 15
Deciding on the layout and set-up of my horse barn was no easy feat... It took a lot of research, changes, help, and of course, money.
Here is the process of the design and build from start to finish, and hopefully you can learn a few things from my experience.
I designed the layout of the barn myself after going through SO many barn blueprints and considering:
The layout of our property
What I knew I wanted
My horses' personalities
Eventually, I settled on a 24' x 32' two-stall barn with 10'x12' stalls, a 12'x32' area for cross-ties and storage, and a 12'x12' tack and feed area.
Here is the blueprint that I designed using the free version of an online program: smartdraw.com
We ended up enlisting the help of an engineer to finalize my drawings and help with my building permit since we went with a shallow footing with rebar anchors (meaning we did a poured concrete "border" rather than a pole barn or concrete pad), and that required an engineer sign-off in order to pass the building permit approval.
Basically, what was required was that we had an excavator come in and dig out the border of the barn, and then fill it with gravel (which was rolled to be super solid). Then, we had a crew come and build the shallow footing area based on the engineer's requirements. The next day, a concrete company came and poured the concrete into the shallow footing section.
After it set for a week or two, the excavator came back and filled the barn flooring with half pit run, and then half crusher dust, which he again rolled to make it super smooth and solid.
(Once the barn was done, I put down rubber mats in the stalls and cross-tie area for comfort, rather than just standing on crusher dust.)
Once the footing was done, we were ready to begin the rest of the barn construction! My husband was the brain and brawn behind building the barn, and my father, father-in-law, and mother-in-law's partner came up and helped with a lot of it too (like standing walls, lifting trusses and roofing, and steel siding.
I also chose to do clear siding on the top portion of the walls, rather than just do steel all the way up, as the clear plastic lets in so much natural light and makes it feel more open and welcoming for the horses.
While the barn was being built, I also hired someone to come and put in my sand ring. It's approximately 65'x100' which is the perfect size for just me and my two horses.
We needed a lot of prep work done before he could put in the ring since our property has a natural slope to it and an underground spring seemed to be at the border between the lawn and the ring's edge, which would cause issues with ring wetness if we didn't address it.
We ended up doing a large ditch between the lawn and the ring and then putting in a drainage pipe, so water ran off the lawn and into the ditch to flow out, but couldn't make its way into the ring. Then, he built up the area where the ring was going to fix the slope and make it flat and level.
Again with the slope of our property, we wanted to do additional drainage around the barn to avoid any water coming into the barn. So, we dug a trench along the back of the barn where the ground slopes down and then along the side and out, so that any water that ran off the slope would go into the drainage pipe and wash out, rather than sit against the barn. My father was able to do all this with his tractor, so that saved a lot of money and time.
We then filled the entrances of the barn that the horses wouldn't be walking out of with gravel, to avoid any mud when coming and going from the barn.
And, we had a few loads (2.5 I believe) of crusher dust delivered so that we could build our dry lot off the barn. This was CRUCIAL for our area since we have a lot of clay soil, underground springs, and overall wetness.
The dry lot consisted of about 1/2-1 ft. of pit run, covered by a hefty layering of crusher dust. Our excavator guy had dug down the dry lot area to accommodate the added material and then filled it with pit run. To save us time and money, my father and father-in-law spread out the crusher dust themselves with their tractors... And thanks to my dad being a perfectionist, they did a mighty fine job!
*Be sure to read to the end to hear why I ended up changing this later...
After we were done with the barn itself, we moved onto the grass paddock, which we knew wouldn't be ready before the horses moved home. Our land is quite rocky, so my father put a rake on the end of his tractor and raked along the ground to pull up any large rocks and also to soften and turn the soil since it had packed down really hard with all the dump trucks and excavators driving over it.
After it was turned, I then seeded it with an Equine Pasture Mix grass seed from Co-Op. We then planned to let it sit and do its thing.
The final step before the horses moved home was, of course, fencing! We only focused on the dry lot fencing at first, since that was the only area the horses were going to be in while the grass grew. We borrowed a fence hole digger from a neighbour up the road, and I went with the 4ft Range Master Equine Wire Fencing from Masstown Hardware for my dry lot fencing.
Though not cheap, I went with that style of fencing since we have dogs and I didn't want them going in with the horses. Plus, the road with an 80km/hr speed limit is right there and I wanted the peace of mind that my horses would be secure.
I love it and would choose it again and again for secure paddock fencing.
I also added a top wooden rail at the top of the wire fence for visibility and added security. Plus, it just looks nicer! We initially bought fence rail for it, but quickly exchanged it and went with decking because the fence rail was so flexible. I knew my horse would scratch her butt on it and it would break. The decking provides a much stronger and more secure top rail.
The horses came home on July 1st, one week after we finished fencing the dry lot (and they loved their new home!). A week or two later we fenced the ring, and a few weeks after that we fenced the grass paddock.
My husband and I just did all that fencing ourselves with Mike swinging a fence post maul, using a four-wheeler to stand on, and me - the very trusting wife - holding the posts! (I don't recommend that).
We also got two different types of electric fence tape; one being 2 inches and the other being 1 inch for both the ring and the grass paddock. It was very inexpensive, easy to install, and I prefer the look over electric rope fencing.
We put two strands of 2-inch tape on the top and bottom and two strands of 1-inch tape in the middle.
In late August, we were able to turn the horses out on the grass paddock.
I planned my fencing to all be connected so I never have to bring my horses outside of a fenced area unless I'm going on a trail ride or something.
My barn is connected to the dry lot, which is connected to the grass paddock, which is connected to the ring. This a) saved us money on fencing and b) makes it more secure so there isn't a risk of loose horses unless they get out of a gate.
My ring gate is just two strands of coiled spring gates. They cost like $12.99 each and make it really easy to get in and out of the ring when you're leading one horse and trying to keep the other horse from coming in with you.
We did a 6-ft aluminum gate to separate the dry lot from the grass paddock, and we put two 4-ft gates together for the two entrances into the dry lot and into the grass paddock. *Putting two 4-ft gates together was better than one 8-ft gate because it's a lot less stress on the gate's fence posts (think about the weight of a 4-ft gate, versus an 8-ft gate... that's why you see a lot of farms where the long gate is dragging down and you have to lift it to open and close... it's stressing the gate's post).
We made sure any paddock entrances into the dry lot and grass paddock were at least 8 ft to allow for any tractors, four-wheelers, trucks, etc. that may ever need to come in... You don't want to need a tractor to come inside your paddock and realize it can't fit.
The entrances into the barn include a man door (red, of course, to match all other doors on our property), two 4-ft stall doors attached to the dry lot so the horses can go in and out of the barn at their discretion, and 8-ft double doors. I often opened the double doors for a few hours each day in the summer to allow for a nice cross-breeze through the barn.
The two exterior stall doors are built as dutch doors, so we can close the horses into the stalls and just latch the bottom door, allowing them to look out at the paddock, or in bad weather, we can close the top portion too and have them fully enclosed inside.
We didn't fully separate the stalls; we did partitions that can be easily installed when needed. So for example, the stalls are permanently separated by a 5-ft partition at the front (which is nice for feeding time) but the remaining 5-ft is open for them to move between, making it more of an open shelter. When we want to put the horses in the stalls separately, we have wooden panels that we put into place to separate the remaining 5 feet and make them stalls rather than open shelter.
What I changed:
I ended up changing my dry lot footing about a month or two into having the horses home. If you google dry lot footing, everything tells you to put in crusher dust... however, after having the horses on it for a few weeks, I realized that they weren't laying down on it (since it's kind of sharp) and that it was bothering their hooves. My gelding has quite thin soles and it was irritating him and causing inflammation. So... I ended up having two loads of sand brought in (the same sand as my ring) and my father spread that out on top of the crusher dust. Almost immediately my horses began rolling, laying down comfortably, and the inflammation in the hooves went away. I am glad that I have a good base of pit run and crusher dust underneath so there's no mud, but I would recommend using sand in your dry lot over crusher dust for your horse's comfort.
We plan to clear and prep the rest of the property for additional grass paddocks. That way, we can allow the grass to truly grow and the land to be healthy. When an area gets grazed or mucky, we can rotate them to a new paddock to allow it to regrow.
This summer we also plan to enclose the 12'x12' tack/feed area. The original plan was to make it an enclosed room, but as we got closer to the move-in date, I just wanted to stop spending money for a while (haha) and decided to keep it open concept. Now as the weather has changed and we're in the winter, I'm realizing how much I'd like to have an insulated room, rather than just an open space. So, this summer we'll do wooden flooring over the crusher dust, insulated walls, and an insulated drop ceiling.
Our original drawings from the engineer included a roof overhang for additional shelter. We didn't include it on the initial build, to save money. We may add this in the future, but we have some other plans for our property and house that will take priority first.
If you have any questions about the building process, materials, and products we used, etc. please don't hesitate to reach out!